Former Army major and wife guilty of abusing adopted kids
By Thomas Zambito
NEWARK - A federal jury convicted former Army Maj. John Jackson and his wife, Carolyn, of child endangerment and assault charges Wednesday for what prosecutors say was a cruel punishment regimen that targeted their three adopted children.
On its fifth day of deliberations, the jury found the Jacksons guilty of nearly all of the 24 charges they were facing, including conspiring to endanger the children's welfare and assault.
Prosecutors say the Jackson fed the three children -- each under the age of four at the time -- hot sauce and raw onions and broke their bones for offenses that included being too slow to get in a car seat. In addition to their three adopted children, the Jacksons have three biological children.
The Jacksons, sitting less than five feet away from one another at the defense table, did not react visibly when the verdict was delivered around 1:30 p.m. in U.S. District Court. They left the courtroom without speaking to reporters.
Judge Katharine Hayden set their sentencing date for Oct. 13, 2105.
Afterward, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman dismissed comments made by Carolyn Jackson's defense attorney, who claimed the allegations amounted to "bad parenting," not federal crimes.
"We know that being parents is hard but in our hearts and in our heads we all should know that there are lines we cannot cross," Fishman said.
"What the Jacksons did to those kids, withholding food and water, breaking bones is beyond the pale of what responsible parents can and should do," Fishman said.
This was the second trial for the Jacksons. Last year, Hayden declared a mistrial midway through the couple's first trial after a prosecutor inadvertently mentioned that one of the three children had died -- a fact that jurors were not supposed to hear.
The two-year-old boy died in May 2008 from what a medical examiner determined were natural causes.
The Jacksons were living at Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County where, prosecutors say, some of the alleged abuses are said to have occurred. John Jackson left the Army in April.
The couple have lost full custody of their children. A key prosecution witness at both trials was the couple's teenage son who detailed for jurors the abuse he said he saw his parents take out on his siblings.
The boy, whose name is being withheld by NJ Advance Media, recalled how his parents cited Biblical verses to justify their treatment of the children. "Foolishness is bound up in heart of the child but the rod of correction will drive it out," was one, he testified.